by Mark Owen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
My current WIP, To Hunt a Sub, includes a former Navy SEAL-turned-paleoanthropologist. With two children in the military, I know enough to know SEALs are never ‘former’. They are That Guy regardless current profession, so I have to include the characteristics, thought processes, reactions, voice of that persona, as well as the commitment, patriotism, never-say-die, refuse-to-fail attitudes that make these men unique.
As a result, I read everything I could find on that group:
Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10–probably one of the most famous SEALs, thanks to this book and Hollywood
Warrior Soul: The Memoir of a Navy Seal
- SEAL Team Six: Memoirs of an Elite Navy SEAL Sniper
Chosen Soldier: The Making of a Special Forces Warrior
The Warrior Elite: The Forging of SEAL Class 228
Seal!: From Vietnam’s Phoenix Program to Central America’s Drug Wars
- Navy SEALs: A History of the Early Years
- American Sniper: An Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in American History
These books are remarkably similar in their voice, description of the men who choose this profession (or are chosen for it), their love of America, countrymen, and their Brother warriors.
One I just finished is Mark Owen and Kevin Maurer’s No Easy Day: The Autobiography of a Navy Seal (Dutton 2012). This is a firsthand account of the mission that kills Osama Bin Laden through Mark Owen’s story–how he grew into the man who ended the reign of terror that was Osama bin Laden. As in other SEAL books, Owens makes it clear early and often that his success is the success of the men around him. He constantly compliments others and downplays his part in events
“Having Charlie back made up for some of it. Fresh off of instructor duties at Green Team, he was sharp, and on this operation he was going to be vital. His experience and calm demeanor under fire were second to none.”
“Without a doubt, our RECCE guys were the best in the business…”
The reader also gets lots of first-hand accounts of superman actions that are the norm in Special Forces–no terrain stops them be it rock face or mud flat. Everything is simply the path to their objective. Stamina, too, is never a factor, always assumed. Sleep arrives if there’s time, as does food.
But Owens story is more than a first-hand account (though that is fascinating). He includes lots of primary source emotions, reactions, thoughts. There’s one particularly fascinating scene as Owens dresses himself for the operating, with detailed descriptions of clothing, weaponry, protection, comms, and more (see it on pg. 202).
Here are some of my favorite lines:
- “Our tactics weren’t unique. What made us different was our experience level and knowing when to take violent, decisive action and when to be patient and quiet
- “The target was secure, but now we had to do sensitive site exploitation, which we called SSE. Bsically, we shot pictures of the dead, gathered up any weapons and explosives, and collected thumb drives, computers, and papers.”
- “SSE had evolved over the years. It had become a way to rebut false accusations that the fighters we killed were innocent farmers.”
- “The raid was proof that good planning and the use of stealth was a lethal combination.”
- “On the last deployment, we were slapped with a new requirement to call them out. After surrounding a building, an interpreter had to get on a bullhorn and yell for the fighters to come out with their hands raised. It was similar to what police did in the US.”
- “We had no idea what the inside of the house looked like. It wasn’t a big concern. We had years of combat experience, and we could apply it to this problem.”
- “We also had to battle the ‘good idea fairy’. She shows up on all our missions to some degree or another, and she isn’t our friend. …officers and planners start dreaming up unrealistic scenarios that we may have to deal with on a mission.”
- “We needed a reason other than the truth [to capture OBL] in case we were detained.”
- “The only evidence I’d slept was the empty baggie that once held a couple of Ambien and a handful of empty bottles now filled with urine.”
Overall, a fascinating look at how America accomplishes the impossible.
You may wonder at my interest in this world? I’m a school teacher, a quiet person who couldn’t physically defend myself if I had to (yeah, I’d try–and fail).
As I was writing my latest WIP, I knew I had to ground myself in military. I don’t have that background. Some would say it is an impossible task, given that I can’t ‘write what I know’. They may be right, but my muse wouldn’t listen. She just kept throwing books at me–read this! Now this! You don’t get it yet read this one too!
So I did. That came to about fifty books. I won’t list them all, just a few of my favorites that use a military setting and plot to share experiences we are all of us familiar with:
- Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailor–to this day, one of my favorite books ever; a military classic
- Horse Soldiers: –how Afghanistan started. It involves problem solving and horses
- Galloping Ghost–the evolution of subs (particularly important since my book deals with subs); more problem solving
- Big Red--life aboard a nuclear submarine (the class of sub hunted in my book); what we do to keep American freedoms safe–it’s all about carrying a big stick, not weilding it
- Gates of Fire--the Spartans in Thermopylae–what warriors they were. Amazing how properly inspired, man can do the impossible
- Killer Angels--quite human soldiers during the Civil War; a classic. A peek into the ordinary people who protected our Union.
- A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh
- The Influence Of Sea Power Upon History, 1660 – 1783 — an amazing historic masterpiece on this topic–the essential read
- In the Company of Soldiers by Rick Atkinson
If you’re interested in this topic, you’ll love these books.
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy. She is webmaster for six blogs, an Amazon Vine Voice book reviewer, a columnist for Examiner.com and TeachHUB, Editorial Review Board member for Journal for Computing Teachers, monthly contributor to Today’s Author and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. In her free time, she is editor of technology training books for how to integrate technology in education. Currently, she’s editing a techno-thriller that should be out to publishers next summer.